Wow. Did you think I had died? I promise I haven’t; I’m alive and well! Our flight was from Louisville to Atlanta and then from Atlanta to Accra. Other than the fact that a kid threw up next to my seat on the plane and another girl sat in the bathroom complaining about internal bleeding the flight was good! The first leg was about 50 minutes and the second was about 10 hours. This was the first introduction to my minority status and it was very interesting! The airport doesn’t have gates so they just park the plane in the middle of the runway and bring these big steps that you climb down from and then get on a shuttle (the nicest thing I have ridden in since being here).
Leaving the airport and getting to our residence in Pokuase was a trip for sure. The director of the NGO I am with picked us up but because there was so much luggage and three new volunteers (another girl from Peru flew in at the same time) we had to take a taxi. Taking a taxi in Accra gave us insight into A LOT of cultural norms. First, Ghanaians pee anywhere; very rarely will you ever find a place with a restroom (compounds do but nowhere in public). Our taxi driver got out of the car and walked to the other side of the road (a very busy road) and whipped out and started to relieve himself and he did this again later in our journey. Next, there is no such thing as lanes in Accra and surrounding areas. There are marks on the roads to signify two lanes but this means nothing to the locals, they drive wherever they want at whatever speed that want and coupled with the fact that there are no stoplights, it is an experience. Sometimes the locals just decide to take it upon themselves to direct traffic and our taxi driver wasn’t listening to them so they just came and banged the top of our car, kind of scary. There were several times that I thought my life was ending, but now having ridden in a taxi several times and a tro tro even more I am used to it.
Traffic here is terrible. We think NYC and LA are bad, but that is because most of us haven’t been to Accra yet. From Pokuase to the circle should maybe take 20 minutes, but instead it takes about one hour. I have never been in a traffic jam like the ones here. I’m used to traffic jams meaning cars are just at a stand still in their own lanes on the interstate, but traffic jams here mean that your car is blocked in with cars on all four sides of you going in different directions. CRAZY. Oh, and to make matters even more tiring, there are goats and sheep and chickens that run around EVERYWHERE!
While there are many people who drive their own cars, much of the population relies on public transportation and when I say public I mean public. As I mentioned previously there are taxis, either shared, meaning the driver may stop and pick others up along the way, or chartered, just you and the driver. In addition, many people use the trotro. Trotros come in all sizes, styles, colors, and makes; they are normally about the size of a church van, but instead a vehicle that should hold about 15 people has anywhere from 22 to 28 people packed in. One of the trotros I was in was rusting out so badly that you could see the tires spinning below, but hey…it gets you where you need to go. Another thing worth mentioning is that there are no set prices on any of these. In America we’re used to hopping in a cab and relying on the meter to tell us how much to pay and everything is done by bargaining. Since we’re white they often times think they can charge us more so it can be a little trying, but we’re getting used to it. Last night our taxi driver tried to charge us 5 cedis to get to Kwami Nkrumah Circle, but we just laughed in his face and got it down to 3 cedis.
Once we finally arrived at our compound we were greeted by Princess, the wife of the spiritual chief Nguomo. Together they have one child, Prince who is nine months old, but he has two other children from another woman, Niyobo and Nikoffee, both of whom are in my classes at school. At first Princess was a lot to handle, but she has come to be one of the most enjoyable people here, very bubbly.
After eating dinner around 7 PM the first night we just sat around and talked. During a span of about 2 hours the power went off four times and the water hadn’t worked since we had been there. It is very off and on with power and water here and rarely do they work at the same time. We have been fortunate the last couple of days in that most things have been working. Showers are cold and you don’t leave the water running the whole time because the tank will run out, in that case you revert to bucket showers. Since it is the rainy season here we could just go outside for our showering. When the power is on the heat isn’t so bad because they have THE MOST POWERFUL CEILING FANS EVER! Sometimes we just sit under the fan and feel like we’re in heaven. It definitely isn’t as hot as I expected, but that is because it is the rainy season; it is a little humid though but there is a constant wind here which makes it quite pleasant.
The next morning for breakfast we had two pieces of bread and then headed into town for a tour. We saw Kwami Nkrumah Circle, a memorial thing for Ghana’s first president, the National Museum, Independence Square and we ate at Papaye.
Food here consists of A LOT of chicken and rice and it is often spicy and fried; I haven’t been disspointed so far. I will update later about the food as I get to taste more of it. Usually, when a Ghanaian gets food they will say, “You are invited;” at first I was like what are you talking about but it means that you can share the food with them. They are extremely generous to us with everything; if you walk in to a place and there are no seats they will make the obibinis (black people) move and give their chairs to the obrunis (whites). Now, having said that you probably think I have become a huge racist. No. It is acceptable for people to call one other that here. Everyday we are walking down the streets they will holler “OBRUNI!” and we will respond with “Obibini bye-bye!” It’s kind of cool but something we are still getting used too.
Well, that is all I can write for now. I will update more about the school I work at and the language here in a little bit.